Friday, November 21, 2008

Logistics

“An army marches on its stomach
Napoleon Bonaparte

“I don't know what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that Marshall is always
talking about, but I want some of it.”
Admiral E. J. King, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander World War II

“Battles are decided by the quartermasters before the first shot is fired.”
Erwin Rommel “The Desert Fox”

Upon first glance at the news headline –“Pakistan truck halt threatens U.S. supply line” -- Napoleon’s famous observation sprang immediately to mind, quickly followed by the second.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia failed in large measure because the retreating armies carried out a scorched earth program that denied the French army local sustenance. The deeper Napoleon went, the longer – and therefore the more vulnerable to attack – his logistics train became. The unusually harsh winter sealed the Corsican’s fate.

Admiral King was appointed as Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet shortly after Pearl Harbor. Almost immediately, however, the scope of his area of responsibility was curtailed by the March 18, 1942 appointment of General Douglas MacArthur as Commander of the Southwest Pacific Theater. This set off a competition for resources sent to the “greater” Pacific Theater. King was intent on getting everything he could from Washington where General George Marshall was advising President Roosevelt.

If the press reports are correct, it appears that the Taliban, either alone or in conjunction with local tribes, have finally tumbled to the fact that convoys on the U.S.-NATO main supply route from the Pakistani port of Karachi through the Khyber Pass to Kabul, Afghanistan are vulnerable to ambush. This is particularly true in the 30-mile long storied Khyber Pass where the narrow twisting road cannot be traversed quickly.

The frequency of the ambushes is classified, but Taliban sources claim there is one every day on average. That may not seem to be a huge number, but it is clearly enough to make truck drivers think twice – even with the high salaries being offered.

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